Aslanbek Dadyev, 2005 winner
Chechnya is one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a reporter. Journalists reporting from Chechnya face two equally forbidding obstacles: hostile authorities bent on turning the area into a “no-fly zone” for independent media, and pervasive lawlessness on the ground that turns any journalist into a target for vicious criminals. RFE/RL’s Aslanbek Dadayev has somehow surmounted these obstacles, managing not only to get the story out but to do so with sensitivity and fine craftsmanship.
Not surprisingly, though, Dadayev’s dedication has come at a great personal cost. In his 13-year career as a journalist, he has been take hostage twice—in 1995 in Chechnya, and in 1997 in Dagestan. He has been arrested and detained on a number of occasions. His most recent arrest took place in 2003 in front of a UN delegation visiting a refugee camp in Ingushetia. Six months later, masked gunmen in the Ingush capital of Nazran attacked Dadayev and his colleague, an Agence France Presse correspondent. Dadayev managed to escape; his colleague, however, was not so lucky—he was taken away and has been missing ever since. In the wake of this attack, Dadayev had no choice but to go into hiding. A few days later, his home in Grozny, the Chechen capital, was searched by Russian troops, who verbally abused and threatened his elderly mother and young sister.
Now in his third year at RFE/RL, Dadayev has continued to cover the conflict in the Caucasus for RFE/RL despite this harassment, offering fresh perspectives and using a wide range of sources. His finest hour as a reporter occurred last September when he was one of the few correspondents who witnessed the Beslan hostage tragedy from beginning to end. An ethnic Chechen, Dadayev took an enormous risk just by working in the area, and his reportage of the events in Beslan was among the best offered by any media outlet. As usual, his effort did not go unnoticed: while the drama in Beslan was unfolding, six of his close relatives in Chechnya were arrested. Thankfully, after several days of intensive interrogation, they were released—and Dadayev continued doing what he does best: delivering the news to his embattled compatriots.